(Major spoilers ahead for the GoT show and books.)
Cersei Lannister said it best in season one when she told the doomed Ned Stark: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” But what does it mean to really win on Game Of Thrones? The players in Westeros and beyond see the Iron Throne as the trophy for “winning” the game — so many characters want that chair, and so many have already died trying to get it. Let’s take a look at who’s left and who’ll be left standing once season eight (or however many D&D and HBO settle on) comes to an end.
As of season five’s finale, Tommen Baratheon sits atop the throne, but how long will that last? I mean, he might be the nicest and possibly most honorable of its owners in awhile, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a long reign. In fact, it seems like the nicer you are, the faster you’re killed. You either have to adapt and survive or lose your head, and Tommen already seems like he’s in over his head with the Sparrows. At least he has a little more sense than his younger equivalent in the ASOIAF books who can’t put down his kittens to see the destruction around him. And that’s not even counting the whole “not really a Baratheon” chink in his claim.
Speaking of true Baratheons, we can’t rule out Gendry. Remember him? Arya’s buddy, got leeched by Melisandre? Sure, he’s been missing for awhile since Davos saved his bacon, but he has a much truer claim to the Iron Throne than any of Cersei’s children. There have been several cases of bastards being legitimized before, so why can’t Gendry be Chekhov’s heir and show up to take his sorta birthright?
Another contender is Tommen’s sister Myrcella, whom we last saw departing the sloppily put together Dorne — both the place and the arc — and possibly dying in her father’s arms. Unlike a certain other dead bastard, the fate of Myrcella isn’t clear, and she might be back. And if the books serve as a guide for her, she may be on her way to ruling Westeros according to Dornish law. The series would have to make tremendous strides to swing back in that direction of the character, but it’s not as crazy as those still waiting for Lady Stoneheart to emerge.
Jon Snow is another frontrunner, because face it: He’s alive. He clearly crawled under the Dumpster, and all the other crows were just stabbing Nicholas. It’s so obvious! Although he’s supposedly just a bastard (there’s a lot of those in Westeros), if the R + L = J theory is true, Snow is near the top of that candidate list. But if it has been Snow that Melisandre has been seeing in the flames, he’ll have an even bigger role to play than ruler of Westeros.
Daenerys is another obvious choice. She’s got all those dragons and Unsullied, who can’t seem to take out the Sons of the Harpy, but still. She has one of the best claims out of the bunch. We’re still waiting for her trip back to Westeros, which I’m sure we’ll be waiting for for another couple seasons.
We also can’t rule out Petyr Baelish, the wild card of the seven kingdoms. He must have been the inspiration for Drake’s song since he started off being a nobody and just keeps grabbing power and making plays. Lord Varys spelled out his character back in season three: “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.” All Littlefinger has to do is marry a few more people and toss a few others out some moon doors, and he could win the game.
A couple other contenders exist in the books, including the still-living Stannis and a surprise Targaryen heir, but since they haven’t come to light in the series, it’s safe to say they’ll stay hidden. Of course, George R.R. Martin could just throw all the bickering out the window and leave King’s Landing in frozen ashes. He’s said he wants to leave the series on some hope with a “bittersweet” ending, but that could mean anything in this series. He probably sees a finale with just Rickon and Davos alive as “hopeful.” Actually, let them ride around on dragons and I’d be okay with that.
Who do you think will win the Game of Thrones?